You may need copies of some of your past W-2s (“Wage and Tax Statement”) to verify your income for numerous reasons, such as qualifying for a mortgage, applying for a loan or requesting student financial aid. If you can’t find some of your past W-2s attached to the tax returns in your files, you can get free copies without having to pay for them. You may have to perform an online search, or you may find the answer just around the corner at your place of employment or in your tax preparer’s office.
Contact Your Employer
Regardless of whether you still work for the employer who issued your W-2, you can contact the company (if it’s still in business) and ask for a duplicate copy. Although employers are required to keep W-2s for only four years, you may not need a W-2 that’s older than that. And even if you do, your employer may have kept them. It’s worth a phone call to see if your employer has what you need, and if he will provide a copy at no charge.
Call Your Tax Preparer
If you paid a tax preparer to file your tax return, that’s another easy phone call away to see if she’ll give you a copy of a past W-2 for free. If you just need a copy of your W-2 and not a copy of your complete tax return, be sure to communicate this to your tax preparer. Although she may charge you for a copy of your entire tax return, she may not charge just for a copy of your W-2, because the copying and paper cost is minimal.
Visit the IRS Online
To get an actual photocopy of a prior W-2 from the IRS, you’ll have had to submit a paper tax return. Photocopy requests also require a $50 fee for processing, which is waived if you're a victim of a federally declared disaster. If you filed your tax return electronically, you can get a free transcript of your W-2. Although a transcript is not a photocopy, it includes all the information that was on your original W-2 form. You can get a transcript up to 10 years after you filed a tax return. Visit IRS.gov and search for “Get Transcript Online.” If you want to view and download your W-2 using this feature, you’ll have to go through an online registration and verification process. If you are unable to register, or if you don’t want to register online, download IRS Form 4506-T, "Request for Transcript of Tax Return," and mail your transcript request, or call the IRS at 800-908-9946. You’ll receive your transcript within 10 days after the IRS receives your request.
Check with the Social Security Administration (SSA)
If the reason you need a past-year W-2 form is because of a Social Security issue, the SSA will provide a copy of your W-2 at no charge. All other requests carry a fee of $86. Visit SSA.gov and search for “get W-2” or call your local SSA office to request your copy.
Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting and tax. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.